NEWS AND ISSUES


January 2008 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

The following is a summary of some of my office's activities since my last community report:

Albany Update:

On January 9, 2008, in his second State of the State address, Governor Spitzer laid out initiatives to rebuild New York's economy, support the development of affordable housing, invest in our public schools and colleges and continue to reform our health care system.

I am supportive of the vast majority of the Governor's proposals, many of which echo the agenda for a more prosperous and progressive New York that my Senate Democratic colleagues and I have been developing over the past several months. I pledge to work with the Senate Democratic conference and my Republican colleagues across the aisle towards their implementation.

I couldn't be more thrilled about the Governor's announced $400 million Housing Opportunity Fund. These dedicated funds for the preservation and creation of affordable housing for New Yorkers who are poor, working-class or have special needs, will more than triple the amount the State currently allocates for affordable housing. As we all know too well, the need for affordable housing and supportive housing in New York is dire. Making this substantial investment now will pay long-term dividends for our State's economy and quality of life by enabling an economically diverse population to continue to live and work here, and by enabling people with special needs to live independently.

In terms of higher education, I support the Governor's proposed hiring of 2,000 full-time faculty for the State's public colleges over the next five years and his commitment to creating world class public universities that can compete for global research and development dollars. But we also must make sure that the mission of SUNY/CUNY is honored. That means expanding TAP and keeping tuition affordable for middle and low income students. Their dream for a better way of life is a fundamental right.

I agree with the Governor that we must continue to use prudence regarding the Medicaid system while expanding services for the uninsured. I applaud his plan to invest in preventive and primary care and to revise the traditional Medicaid funding formula from paying too much for some hospital-based procedures to paying more for primary and preventive care. This focus will help avoid costly treatment for chronic diseases and reduce overall health care costs. I will continue to work to preserve the excellence of New York State hospitals in terms of care, teaching, research and innovation. Moreover, these critical reforms will help us to meet our goal of providing universal health care coverage for all New Yorkers. I am particularly pleased with the Governor's proposal to ensure health care coverage for all New York State's children.

These are just some of the proposals announced in the Governor's State of the State which I will press for as we enter into budget negotiations. I am hopeful that partisanship can be put aside and we can get great things accomplished for New York this year.

Victory! DOF Makes Public a List of Buildings that Receive J-51 Tax Abatements:

You may recall that in late summer, I, along with State Senators Eric Schneiderman and Liz Krueger requested that the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) compile and make public a list of all buildings that accept New York City J-51 tax abatements in order to help Federal Section 8 voucher holders find housing where their vouchers will be accepted. While many landlords turn away voucher holders, a local law that I ushered to passage while a New York City Councilmember, and which was recently upheld by the New York State Court of Appeals, mandates that landlords who take advantage of the J-51 tax abatement program may not discriminate against tenants or prospective tenants who use Section 8 vouchers. I am pleased to report that DOF has complied with our request, and the public can now access both a searchable list as well as a complete list of all J-51 buildings in New York City directly at http://tinyurl.com/ywr7nx, or by clicking the link "Search properties with J-51 exemptions" on DOF's homepage at www.nyc.gov/finance. Senators Schneiderman, Krueger and I are now working to ensure that both voucher holders and the City's 311 operators know about this new resource and are familiar with how to use it effectively.

Advocating Community-Friendly Development on Pier 40:

As many of you know, Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) has set a January 31 deadline to make a decision on the two formal proposals for Pier 40. HRPT has also been presented with an alternative plan by the Pier 40 Partnership. My office has been working with the Pier 40 Working Group of the HRPT Advisory Council for over a year and this advisory body has recently released a supplemental recommendation for the Pier's development. I would like to congratulate the Group on completing this difficult task and thank the members for their continued dedication to securing the future of Pier 40.

Like the Working Group as a whole -- and for many of the same reasons detailed in its most recent recommendation -- I am not supportive of the Related proposal. I am particularly concerned that this proposal seeks a 49-year lease, which is beyond the 30 years allowed under the law that created the park. I am adamantly opposed to opening the Hudson River Park Act to permit such an extension. In addition, doing so could have drastic consequences for the effort to keep a waste transfer station off the Gansevoort Peninsula. I also have not supported the Camp Group/Urban Dove proposal. While in concept, its use is more palatable than the Related proposal's, it still favors a longer lease than 30 years and raises for me similar concerns regarding tax-free financing as the Partnership plan, which I address below.

As described in the Working Group document, the Pier 40 Partnership plan has much to recommend about it. However, I am concerned about the ability of the Partnership to obtain and meet its obligations on the $206 million in New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) financing it seeks. Should that Partnership not be able to obtain that substantial financing -- or make its debt service payments on any IDA bonds issued -- I cannot honestly say that I would be able to secure the funding necessary to restore the crumbling pier and support the venture, which itself must generate revenue to fund completion of the Park. Nonetheless, the Partnership's study is innovative and inspiring and I am supportive of this plan in concept.

While HRPT's stated deadline is fast approaching, I believe a lot of compromise can take place between now and then. As a legislator who represents most of the Hudson River Park, I believe we can find a way forward that balances the needs of the community with the revenue needs of the park and I will continue to work with my colleagues, the HRPT, and the community to reach this end.

Seeking Quality of Life Improvements at 344 East 28th Street

On December 27, New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez and I attended the year-end 344 East 28th Street tenant association meeting. The tenants of this New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) building raised concerns about mentally ill people from Bellevue Hospital loitering in their building and in the playground; persistent leaks in some apartments; and a rat infestation outside the building, among other things. Councilmember Mendez and I are working together to arrange a meeting with representatives from Bellevue Hospital and to work with the tenant association, building management, the 13th Precinct and NYCHA to find solutions to these and other problems.

A Request for Your Input Regarding the St. Vincentfs Plans:

As you undoubtedly know, on December 31, 2007, St. Vincent's Hospital submitted five applications with the Landmarks Preservation Commission for its redevelopment project. This project is understandably one of great concern to area residents. Constituent letters, meetings, and the enormous turnout at CB2fs public hearing on the proposal earlier this week have provided insights into many changes residents would like to see made. Due to the large scale of this unprecedented redevelopment, I, along with Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and Manhattan Community Board 2, have designed an unscientific survey to gain further insights into the community's priorities which will be important as we try to negotiate for concessions. While we cannot guarantee specific outcomes, this information will be one tool that guides us as we advocate for that which is most important to the community. We would appreciate your input and those with Internet access can link to the survey through the homepage of www.tomduane.com or www.cb2manhattan.org.

Success! Full-Service West Village Post Office is Open:

I am happy to report that after a much-delayed renovation, the West Village Post Office is currently open and staffed with all previous services in place. Like so many of my West Village constituents, I was outraged last summer when I learned that the United States Postal Service (USPS) had plans to re-open the West Village Post Office on Hudson Street as an entirely automated station. I worked with Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Community Board 2 to compel USPS to reverse its decision, leading to the re-opening of a full-service, staffed West Village Post Office in the last week of 2007.

Supporting CB3's Stipulation with Cooper Square Hotel LLC:

Please see the testimony I submitted to the January 8, 2008 New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) 500 foot rule hearing regarding the Cooper Square Hotel. I commend Manhattan Community Board 3 (CB3) for compelling the hotel owner to sign a stipulation agreeing to specific conditions regarding its operations. Indeed, I called upon the SLA to not approve the hotel's liquor license application unless it includes those conditions in the license's Method of Operations, making the stipulation actionable under the law.

Exploring an M23 Supplemental Bus Line:

As those of you who board the M23 at Avenue C and 20th Street know, that bus takes quite some time to make its way across 23rd Street to its first intersection with the subway system at Lexington Avenue. Delays are particularly long at the First Avenue and 23rd Street stop, where a constant flow of riders from Peter Cooper Village, East Midtown Plaza and other large area buildings board. To enable those who board at Avenue C to switch more quickly to the subway system, I am currently exploring a proposal, brought to my attention by one of my constituents, which would establish a supplemental M23 bus line. This proposed "M23L" would run concurrently with the regular M23, but would go south and west to the L stop on 14th Street and First Avenue before heading North to resume the 23rd Street crosstown route. This is an early stage proposal, and it needs proper vetting and community feedback, thus my staff has brought it to the attention of CB6's transportation committee. I look forward to your input on this and other ways we may improve public transportation within CB6.

Joining CB2 in Addressing Overcrowding in Our Schools:

On January 17, I was pleased to attend Manhattan Community Board 2's (CB2) public hearing on overcrowding in our neighborhood schools, which can be watched in its entirety on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMe3s95NO9c. As I told the many people in attendance, public school overcrowding is a problem throughout my district, and indeed, much of the City, but the enormity of the problem is no excuse to dismiss the pressing need for additional classroom seats within Community Board 2. With current enrollment already straining our schools' capacity and enrollment in District 2 projected to increase substantially in the next nine years, the Department of Education will have to create thousands of new seats over that time period to keep up with demand. I look forward to working with the Department of Education and the community to ensure that this happens, and thank Keen Berger and CB2's Social Services and Education Committee for bringing attention to this critical issue.

Recycle Your Ink Jet Cartridges and Cell Phones:

Cell phones are becoming increasingly disposable for many New Yorkers, causing hundreds of millions to be thrown away each year across the nation. Likewise, the proliferation of the low-cost ink-jet printers has led to an explosion of empty cartridges in the waste stream. This is incredibly harmful to the environment due to possible toxic substances and the extremely long amount of time it takes them to biodegrade. This is completely unnecessary, as there are many options for recycling your ink jet cartridges and cell phones. To find out how, please see my press release.

Complete Your College Financial Aid Forms - Participate in College Goal Sunday:

In the fall of 2007, I hosted a series of forums in my district on accessing college financial aid in response to considerable concern and confusion among parents of high school children. One issue all the presenters emphasized was the importance of properly filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Thus I am pleased to announce that the annual "College Goal Sunday," a one-day special event designed to help high school seniors and their families complete and file federal aid applications electronically, is coming soon, and I invite everyone to participate.

"College Goal Sunday" is a national initiative hosted locally by the New York State Financial Aid Administrator's Association and the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation. There are events across the State, including one at A. Philip Randolph High School at 135 Street and Convent Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday, February 10 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Please visit www.collegegoalsundayny.com for more information and a step-by-step checklist detailing the process of pulling together necessary forms and information and completing the documents families will need to bring to the event.

Free Tax Preparation!

Community Tax Aid is offering free tax preparation to individuals with incomes up to $25,000 and families with incomes up to $40,000 who have income from interest, dividends and capital gains of less than $2,900. Tax assistance is provided by volunteers trained in tax preparation, including CPAs and attorneys. Locations in Manhattan include:

Union Settlement House, 237 East 104th Street

Saturdays from 10:00AM to 4:00PM from February 16th to April 12th

Housing Conservation Coordinators, 777 Tenth Avenue @ E. 53rd Street

Wednesdays from 6:00 to 8:30PM from February 13th to April 9th except March 12th

Hudson Guild 119 Ninth Avenue @ W. 18th Street

Thursdays from 6:00 to 8:00PM from February 14th to April 10th except March 13th

Goddard-Riverside Community Center, 647 Columbus Ave @ W. 91st Street

Tuesdays 6:00 to 8:30PM from February 12th to April 15th except March 11th

By Appointment only --call 212-799-9400 for an appointment

For more information call 212-613-3101 or visit http://communities.msn.com/ctanyc.


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